New Delhi: Sacked by the Border Security Force, Tej Bahadur Yadav was back in his village in Haryana's Rewari only long enough this morning to offer prayers at home before he set off for Delhi, where he will appeal in the High Court against his dismissal from service.
A court martial inquiry has found Mr Yadav, 49, guilty of making false charges and of indiscipline for posting video on Facebook alleging that troops on the frontline in Jammu and Kashmir are being nearly starved with bad food and poor portions. The dismissal means he will not be entitled to a pension after more than 20 years of serving in the BSF.
About four km out of his village, Mr Yadav, still in uniform, told NDTV today, "I want to move the high court as soon as possible... it's a long fight, but I am ready for it." In the meantime, he said, he will return to farming. Well-known lawyers like activist Prashant Bhushan and the Congress's Manish Tewari have offered to represent him in his legal battle.
Mr Yadav posted two videos in January, also alleging that jawans were getting bad food because senior officers were siphoning off rations meant for them. The videos went viral provoking outrage. The sacked jawan says he made his complaint public "only once I saw there was no other way. I had already sent several petitions to senior officers and even to the Prime Minister's Office. But no one heard me."
At his home, his wife Sharmila Devi said her husband was inspired by Prime Minster Narendra Modi's fight against corruption. "He came back home in December and was very happy about the effect of the PM's demonetisation against corruption," she said.
She wouldn't dream of sending her son to the military, Sharmila Devi said of their 18-year-old, who is studying for the IIT entrance exams. The couple alleges that Mr Yadav was not given a fair trial in the court of inquiry conducted by the BSF.
"The witnesses they produced agreed that the food I had shown online was the same as they got every day to eat... I was locked up in a room since January...till January I was not even allowed to go to the mess alone to eat food. When they locked me inside, I was even given food to eat there all on my own. But I was suspicious of the food so I did not eat for 13 days," Mr Yadav said.
The BSF has said in a statement that the court of inquiry "heard the matter from 13th to 19th April and that Tej Bahadur was allowed all opportunities for defence...He can now appeal against this order within the next three months."
Tej Bahadur Yadav was serving in J&K's Poonch when he posted the videos, was shifted to Samba in Jammu while investigations were conducted. An internal BSF inquiry into the quality of food served to the troops had concluded that his claims were incorrect. This was conveyed to the PMO which had sought a report.
Mr Yadav left Samba last evening by bus and traveled for over 12 hours to reach his village this morning.